A dairy free diet may seem exciting and interesting to some, but for those who live with lactose and dairy intolerances it can be incredibly difficult to find alternatives which taste good and aren’t unhealthy.
Recently diary free foods have become more and more popular, with many appearing on supermarket shelves. There are several options for dairy free milk from nuts to beans, sweetened and unsweetened. But which ones are best for you?
I do want to point out, I am not focusing on price points here but rather which of the dairy free alternatives promote the most health benefits.
I also know that often taste is a big factor and I haven’t taste tested any of these either I am simply looking at the variety of dairy free milks and which are the healthiest.
To give you a rough idea of calcium levels: Ordinary cows milk, skimmed milk contains 257mg for a 200ml glass and whole and semi skimmed milk contains 234mg per 200ml glass.
Unsweetened soya milk
Possibly the most traditional dairy free milk. This option is used in many large coffee chains and is sold most, hence why it is often the cheapest dairy free option. ASDA’s Fresh Soya Drink Unsweetened is a fully green drink, low in fat, saturates, sugars and salt. It’s also low in protein and still rich in calcium at 240mg a glass which is the same amount as semi-skimmed cows milk.
There is a lot of conflicting evidence surrounding the topic of soy milk and soy foods in general. Research has found moderate consumption of minimally processed soy foods aren’t bad for you and are good for your health.
However, soy food has been found to be rich in healthy protein and fibre. If you are considering moving from dairy to soy it’s important to research into this if you decide to make the change.
Sweetened soya milk
This is the most popular dairy free alternative when it comes to drinking out, many coffee shops opt to stock this version over unsweetened as many find it can be too bland otherwise.
Of course the same information above applies, but the difference with the sweetened option is of course the calcium levels and sugar levels. This sweetened option 280mg calcium which is more than the unsweetened and cows milk. However, it does contain more sugar and fat than the other options, which does mean that overall it’s not as ‘good for you’.
This may not be the most popular of alternatives, but it is healthy, with minimal fat, sugar and saturates. It also contains the same amount of calcium as semi-skimmed milk but does not have as much protein in with only 0.2g in a 200ml glass whereas cows milk has 7g of protein.
Rice milk is made from the grain rice, mostly being made from wholewheat rice which is unsweetened. Sweetness is often added to the milk by a natural enzymatic process which affects the carbohydrates and turns them into sugars most commonly into glucose.
This milk is most commonly used in cooking, often it’s mixed into curries and add to cool down spicy foods. This alternative has 240mg of calcium so is lower than cows milk but higher than semi-skimmed milk.
However, it has been noted that coconut milk has a high content of saturated fatty acids so it’s recommended to be eaten in moderation.
Made from hemp seeds, this plant based milk is made from seeds soaked and ground in water which results in a creamy bean and nutty flavoured ‘milk’.
This organic milk contains no sugar, cholesterol, soy or gluten so is arguably one of the healthiest options on the list. It also contains fatty acids, vitamins and nutrients so it has a range of benefits.
Made from soaked oats, this is often used as a substitute for skimmed milk, its been regarded as having a mild, sweet taste. It’s free of lactose and cholesterol but is naturally high in fibre and iron.
Unlike other alternatives this isn’t gluten free, but it does have a high content of calcium but their is less protein than normal milk. However, some non-fortified milks don’t have high contents of calcium so again, check the labels before you buy.
Arguably, Hazelnut milk could be one of the healthiest options its naturally gluten, lactose and soy free. It contains no cholesterol or saturated fat and is a good source of vitamins and it’s low in calories.
Like soy and hemp its a plant-based milk but isn’t as common or popular as soy options. Much like the other two it’s also made by soaking and blending the nuts.
Out of all of the options, almond milk contains the least amount of calcium , in addition while almonds maybe good for protein, almond milk isn’t. It is low in calories and does contain no saturated fat.
Almond milk does not contain cholesterol or lactose and has a low amount of sugar. Almond milk isn’t a nutritious as cow’s milk but does often contain add vitamins and minerals to try and match that of cow’s milk.
Key calcium comparison